OPINION: Magennis is striding towards a leading role for Northern Ireland

Josh Magennis was one of Northern Ireland's top performers again. Pic: Jonathan Porter / Press Eye

Josh Magennis was one of Northern Ireland's top performers again. Pic: Jonathan Porter / Press Eye

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Last week, there was an unexpectedly bright performance from a right-winger.

No, not Donald Trump, but Northern Ireland’s very own Josh Magennis.

A few eyebrows were raised when both Kyle Lafferty and Josh were named in the starting line-up.

Two strikers? A bold move in arguably the pivotal match of the group.

When Magennis seemed to line up on the flank, I was even more surprised. But that’s why Michael O’Neill’s one of the most successful Northern Ireland managers ever and I’m, well, not.

This was a performance that marks another huge stride from, in the eyes of the support, an overused extra and towards a leading role.

The Charlton man tortured the Azerbaijan full-back during a tireless first-half, picking up where he left off with another top performance in Germany.

Initially seen as a bit of a battering ram, his and skill on the ball have both been big factors in Northern Ireland’s successful campaign to date. Good luck to Jamie Ward displacing him now.

While Friday’s game saw impressive displays across the board, it was in the wide areas in general that NI really sparkled.

How often do you get a goal from both full-backs in one game? And they were thoroughly deserved. McLaughlin will surely be earmarked at a team further up the English Football League pyamid now - no disrespect to League One’s Fleetwood Town.

On the other side, Brunt showed why he is a Premier League star while Shane Ferguson looked adept when pushed further upfield.

And so to the table - Northern Ireland are second, having played away to the top two seeds. That will do just fine.

Dare we, really, begin to dream again?

As Michael McGovern says, these times must be enjoyed. Dream. Dream we’re in Russia - living those dreams. Again.